Seatbelts Are Saviors

Rochester, New York

Brisk winds are blowing away rain clouds, thankfully we arrived behind the rains pounding the East coast. We’re sitting in a vacant lot near the airport waiting for our next destination. Today, I’m fretting about miles.

We were on track for a big miles week – just shy of 6,000. But we lost our Las Vegas load out of Dallas when dispatch urgently needed a trailer pulled to Columbus. In Columbus, we lost our Portland, Oregon load because we’re not aggressive truck drivers.

We were looking forward to Portland, 2,459 miles away because of we’d be out of hours when we arrived meaning we’d be forced, darn it, to take a 34 hour break in the Pacific Northwest. I was tasting the seafood and seeing us riding our bikes in my mind’s eye.

However, we got a message from above dispatch two hours before departure, a VP, saying they wanted the arriving team to return immediately to Columbus – the load would be waiting. The carrier does not keep track of our hours, but we told them that we would not have enough hours to complete the return trip in their time frame.

What did we get for our honesty? Four hundred sixteen miles. There is a load back to Columbus around ten P.M., which gives us 4,677 miles for the week – okay but not great.

While we wait, I want to tell you the saga of our seatbelts.

Across America states promote “Click it or Ticket” campaigns. We always wear our seatbelts, even if we’re only sitting in the passenger seat for a couple of minutes to get something. A few weeks ago our diigence spared us serious injury. The minor incident could have had serious consequences.

During Greg’s pre-trip inspection of a trailer, he found the air-controlled trailer frame that allows the trailer box to slide in relation to the tires to redistribute the trailer weight, was leaking. He pulled the trailer around into the shop to have the mechanics inspect it. They fiddled with the valve, inflated it and said it was good to go.

Greg drove out the gate, down a side road, traveling a city block at 20 mph. There is a stop sign at the end of the street. As he was trundling down the road, I sat down in the passenger seat, snapped on my seatbelt, before looking at the Qualcomm to ensure that all the proper messages had been sent.

Not two minutes later, Greg tapped the brakes to start slowing for the stop sign. In a nano-second, the truck slammed to a stop, flinging us forward in our seats until the seatbelts snapped back – all of a half-inch probably. Everything in the truck not nailed down flew forward. Magazines, garbage can, briefcase, water jug. We were at an instant stop.

There was absolutely no warning. Had I been sitting on the sleeper berth without the cargo netting, which happens while I make sandwiches. I would have been flung across the tractor into the windshield.

Air holds the trailer frame in place. The valve on the frame controls four pins. When air is full the pins are out, the trailer box is stationary. If the valve loses air the pins retract and the trailer box, with nothing holding it, slams to the back of chassis, stopped by the back bumper.

Greg pulled the brakes, jumped out of the tractor and ran around to look. Sure enough the tires were now under the back of trailer. The tires had been about five feet forward of the back bumper.

Back to the shop. The mechanics replaced the valve. We were cleared to leave.

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